Diners, Drum Corps, and Drives 2015 Edition

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Outstanding! - You are becoming the Anthony Bourdain of Drum Corps Reviewers! - you make me feel like I was there,

Playing 1812 overture with the Pops In Tanglewood is so huge - Years ago before the Capitol Fourth excerpt rendition on PBS it used to feature the complete piece performed by the Boston Pops on the banks of the Themes River in Beantown.

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The scenic views of the early evening were replaced by an almost scary dark drive "Into the Woods" as we started the 3.5 hour drive home. I was tempted to stop and try a couple finding bigfoot tree kn

Truman, once again a fantastic review of your drum corps travels. And you're killin' me with all the photos of that great New England seafood!!! LOL

The late ride up the turnpike was quiet. There was some sleeping in the back seat, and almost some from the driver's seat! Luckily, Lynn stayed awake and kept an eye on me even though I wouldn't let h

After 3 weeks of build up and planning, we were excited to get our week long 2nd tour started. It was great that my wife Lynn could get vacation time! The plan is to spend sat/sun/mon night in Williamsburg, see some sights, play some golf, and watch Atlanta on the laptop, then to head to Virginia Beach to watch SCV for two days of rehearsal before going back North for the TOC in Chester, and East. If things work out we will see all of the top 5 rehearsing at some point.


If I believed in omens, we would probably would have stayed home! It was a beautiful morning Saturday at 6:30 when we left to drop off our Caballero on her way to Bayonne. We live on a one way street, and by taking an almost straight path across to a connecting side street you can avoid having to go around a decent size block to get to main highways. We always cut across there. Unfortunately on this morning a local PD happened to turn up the one way just as we were crossing. I was pulled over one block from my house less than 60 seconds into the trip! After the standard checks of papers and license, we were let off with just a warning.


Breakfast at Wolfe's (I like you Little Red) Diner in Dillsburg on Rt 15 between Harrisburg and Gettysburg, put things back on the right track. Great SOS, perfectly cooked eggs, excellent coffee, at a great price with good service. All the things that make a perfect diner!



We played The Commandant's Own and Battle Hymn as we passed through Civil War history into Maryland.



Despite some construction traffic we made good time through Virginia and into Williamsburg. Having been a few times before, we know our way around the area pretty well. The wifi connection worked nicely as we watched some Atlanta. Dinner break was a stop by one of our favorite BBQ places, Pierces, a place we discovered on our first trip here with our girls. Pulled Pork sandwiches, with slaw, hush puppies, mac and cheese, and some excellent southern style green beans. Then it was a quick 18 holes at Pirates Cove. Despite a strong back 9 rally by Lynn, I held on for a slim 2 stroke victory!






Back at the hotel we watched the last block of corps, and I was not surprised by the results. I had predicted last week that a strong new ending would put Crown into the conversation, and they certainly stayed consistent with their show design theme by using another banner.

Sunday we visited Yorktown during the afternoon, then Virginia Beach at night. One of our favorite beaches, Virginia Beach has a great oceanfront resort area. The ocean boardwalk side of the hotels is clean and not cluttered with any food or retail shops along the boardwalk. The Atlantic ave side has all the typical shops/restaurants/bars and nightlife. Every night all summer there are street performers up and down an 8 block strip, live bands and stage acts, and fireworks and special events that are part of Beach Street USA. Very family friendly, and something for all ages, I would highly recommend as we always have fun here!










Monday was 18 holes at the Golden Horseshoe Green Course. This resort in the downtown Colonial Williamsburg area has 36 holes of championship golf and a 9 hole course as well. The green course is a nice layout, kept in excellent shape, a nice practice range and a super friendly staff. I did not start the front 9 very well and had to make a back 9 comeback to eek out a narrow victory. No shame in that as Lynn played and putted very well!







Dinner was another of our favorites, Captain Georges Seafood Buffet. From the She Crab soup to the Oysters Rockefeller, every item is fresh and excellent. The service was 5 Star and the only thing we could have asked for was some pepto after! We took a nighttime stroll down the main cobblestone street of the historic downtown area before heading back to the hotel. We fondly remembered our first family vacation here when our girls were young.





Next up: Ocean Front and SCV!

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We got to the beach mid morning. It was warm and partly cloudy at first, but the clouds cleared and made for perfect conditions. The water was clear and refreshing,the waves were decent, and we spent the day before checking into our hotel. A nice view from our jacuzzi and deck!




We headed out to find SCV about 20 minutes away in Chesapeake. Along the way was our dinner stop, a place we had seen on Diners, Drive Ins,and Dives, The Rigoletto Italian Bakery and Cafe. We got the signature dishes to go, Caprese salad, Florentina Steak Panini, stuffed meatballs, and a couple baked goods. We found the corps and ate on a bench under a pine tree as the brass worked in sectionals.








They worked the 2nd movement alot, mentioning several changes and tweaks. Then they spent time developing some stamina during Piano Concerto. In between reps, they had to run off the field, around the pine tree right next to us, then back to their dots, where they ran in place until the rep started. 3 sets like that definitely will build up stamina! As we took their picture the second time around, as one kid rounded the tree, he blurted out "oh jeez, they're everywhere!"


No danger of having a dead cell phone around this corps!


After a quick drive around to check out the area, we came back just as ensemble was starting. The sound echoing down the tunnel as we approached was really cool!

The corps was working movement 2, the parts that the brass had just worked, and they sounded and looked fantastic. The big appreciative crowd on hand applauded after every chunk that they played, As they chunked through some rewrites to the ballad and the ending, a couple of brass players appeared to be just learning their dots. Apparently some late season additions to fill a couple holes? It would seem some more lights have been added, but not positive as the webcasts have not shown the light ups as dynamically as in person. A strong run through-and as expected we love the show and the live view was pretty powerful!





Can't think of a much better place to be posting this from than on our balcony overlooking the boardwalk with the sound of the waves crashing as a soundtrack.


Next up tomorrow: Another day of sun, fun, and SCV!

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After a few hours of sleep we were up to watch the sunrise. One of the more beautiful things in the world, this morning did not disappoint. It was coffee on the balcony watching the surfers and the dolphins before the best way to wake up ever, a morning swim in a strong surf!




For breakfast we decided on Doc Taylors just off Atlantic Ave. A former doctors office that only serves breakfast and lunch, (and famous $2.50 bloody marys and mimosas),you would never know from the outside what southern delights are inside! Some of the best coffee anywhere! Lynn had the special watermelon mimosa and the Ray Ray, a fried egg over bacon with parmesan tomatoes on an onion roll with grilled potatoes, and I opted for the Old Bay bloody mary with pancakes, eggs and bacon. This place is a gem among tourist trap restaurants, and a favorite of the locals.



Staying oceanfront really removes any negatives that the beach can bring. No need for dragging coolers, tents, umbrellas and such. Our room was a 2 minute walk from the water, so we did the "swim, rinse, relax, repeat" thing a few times. The water was a perfect temperature.



We arrived at Colon Hall Stadium at the Great Bridge school just as evening ensemble block was underway. A warm sunny night, another large (and kinda loud) bando crowd was on hand again.They spent about an hour working on the changes and additions to the ballad. Felt bad for the battery as they pretty much just pose backfield the whole time. Big improvement on the selling of the bird effect.



Next they worked the closer and more changes. When we were talking after last nights run, we both had noticed a couple near collisions in the brass at the end of the show. The combination of tight intervals in the compact design, coupled with velocity leave very little room for error. One half step off a dot could spell disaster.

I don't know if it was the distraction of all the talking and moving around in the crowd after every rep, but I sensed a little lack luster performance energy level. Certainly a tough spot being the 3rd night of no shows and some hard work. My senses were confirmed when the crowd was asked to please keep it down while instructions were given. Then the corps was challenged. "You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain Vanguard, so let's get the energy and performance up to the level that you are capable of. This is the spot where you grab the audience and will them to their feet"

The crowd yelled it's approval as they reset the end of the show. The energy level went up several notches, for the first few sets. Then it happened. A mello on side one tripped and went down on a direction change out of a tight set, and 4-5 more brass players tumbled over him in a heap. Most of side one did not finish the rep as they were forced to stop there drill. Luckily only a couple minor twists and bruises, but I believe one trumpet was kinda mangled. The young lady carrying that one was noticeably shaken up, but she returned after sitting out for a couple reps. They spent time working through the sections that caused the issue set by set.


Understandably confidence was shaken and even after a few reps went smoothly,you could feel the vibe had changed dramatically. After a lengthy pre run glug, a 5 minute or so meeting was held on the field, and a good pre run pep talk was given from the box. It was time to make sure the changes and hard work done over the last few days was finished off with strength and confidence, so there was no room for self doubt or negative thinking. The corps responded with a fine performance. Really fine battery and front ensemble work of course, some really nice guard moments, and a brass section that is getting stronger and more expressive every day. The mellos live have a piercing classic Shaw sound. The layers of things they have added to sell the theme, coupled with some good old fashioned cleaning has them poised to make some noise over the next 10 days!




Because of night construction on major roads, we have been taking the back roads to and from Chesapeake. For the second straight night one of the strangest things occurred. Because of the huge military base presence in the area, jets are constantly flying in the area. Loud jets that fill the air with a roar. When you are driving in a car in the dark and one passes right over you, it is really unsettling because at first you forget what it is.


We spent our last night in Virginia Beach watching a decent cover band, then some fireworks as we walked along the moonlight ocean. Knowing we would see three great drum corps shows over the next 3 days helped with how hard it is to leave such a beautiful place.





Next up: Black out at the Chester TOC.

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Thanks for providing us the opportunity to tag along with your family, truman! Brings back lots of memories. These days, I'm too lazy for all of that, but your travel diary and photos help me keep tabs on this amazing way to spend a summer. Much appreciated.

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We were up early again to watch the sunrise, and to take one more swim before starting out on the 5 hour trip back up the coast. Early morning is a great time to be in the ocean, and the waves were big and relentless. We stopped on our way out of town for some 100% Kona coffee. Hi test and a taste like no other, the Bad ### Coffee Company does it right! We ate some of the last of our pastries for breakfast as we made our way up the scenic coast and RT 13 through VA and across MD into Delaware.








We are planning on seeing Cadets afternoon block in West Chester, but it looks like a storm front will be arriving there at the same time. Weather has been a non factor, and hope it doesn't start today!

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Just as we arrived at Rustin High School in West Chester it started to rain pretty hard. The brass was trying to work music sectionals on the field, the battery was working in dugouts on a nearby baseball field, the guard was in the lot, and the pit was under cover. Some thunder sent the brass under cover. We watched the battery for a while. The acustics provided very clear feedback. This group is really strong! The thunder cleared and the corps took the field for ensemle. With the rain continuing, we had a chance to hear things live for the first time without the pit. WOW, some really great things, phenominal things going on. They chunked through the show, making small corrections and adjustments. A marked difference from the major changes SCV was working on. Because the French Horn soloist is using a mic in the shako, we were able to get a glimpse of the new look.







The skies cleared by the end of the block. There was no run through. They are being pushed to be great. After the last rep Gino pronounced them ready. It will be interesting to see if the new look is what they need to jump out in front again.

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Well, which is it?


Dinner to go was steak and cheese from Claymont Steaks, holders of multiple best cheesesteaks in Delaware awards. We ate in the lot as Crown Brass warmed up nearby. Friends we had met up with had tickets to the VIP reception in the stadium and they reported a nice spread at the party.







The security checks of the big crowd were taking longer than expected, so
the show was delayed 15 minutes. The skies had cleared up and it was a warm humid night by the bay, perfect for brass sound. This is a great venue for drum corps, excellent sound and sight lines. We said hello at the BD souvie stand, and 3 shirts, 2 hats, and some temporary ink tats later we got to our seats on the 40, side 2.




Next up: Some random show thoughts.

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Some random show thoughts:

Crown's brass was the loudest of the night. Their guard has many OMG moments. The solo in the ballad is
just gorgeous, what chops! Amazing how far this show has come since Clifton.


SCV had multiple (like 10?) premature illumination issues. Many of the brass players body movements caused them to randomly light up, one during the opening choreography. The changes in the ballad worked pretty well, still feel something woogity timing wise between the front ensemble and the brass as they move into the back right corner. Thankfully we saw no holes caused by last nights pile up. You really can't fully appreciate the drill design unless you are up higher. Tough draw for the brass following Crown, a noticeable drop in dramatic power.


I have always loved PR...but...this show is not a fave. We had hoped that our first live view would allow for some goosebumps.There are some nice moments but overall the program seems immature in design. The voice is annoying and unnecessary. Claire is too long, and doesn't hold audience engagement. Organ synth was WAY too loud!!!


Confusion about the in and out policy at the smoking gate caused us to have to go through the mob scene that was INT twice. The souvie stands were all jammed into the concession stand area and near restrooms, so the crowd was dense. Standard overpriced stadium food...$5 for a bottle of water or soda? By the time we finally got out, Cavs were coming on, so we only caught their run from the tunnel. We did see Coats being lead in by the swagger that is White Night Willie. The pass for corps members at this gate was their ability to show their drum corps tan feet!


Coats had a malfunction with electronics in the right end zone. There was a delay as they fussed around with something over there. Then when they got set and were ready to go, the brass kneeling in their pods and Willie ready to start, there was still an issue that would not allow the opening samples to play, and they had to sit there for what seemed like an eternity. We have been looking forward to seeing the show live for quite a while, eager to hear the electronics in a live setting. We were not disappointed...really cool effects and solid performance in all sections tonight. Is there a story or reason I am not aware of behind the all male pit?


The champs were next. A very solid run they deserved the win tonight. We both still like the old closer better. Awesome talent and performance level in the front ensemble, and they are having a blast. Love, love, love the ballad! The new bass drum heads matching the snare and tenor covers are fantastic.


All eyes quickly shifted to the corps entrance as the Cadets came in. The guard uniforms are a great improvement, making them much more visible. The black looks cool and still has Cadet style. The effect visually on the field is not good, imo. The black shako and plume makes them look shorter. Many sets seem muddy. Body movements that had great effect with the old unis now do not. Horns and black are all you see, so horn angles are super exposed, and dirty in many places that I never detected before. We were all in agreement that the uniform change hurt more than helped their cause. The colors on the battery drums help that section greatly, they look as Bad ### as this mornings coffee! My friend is a drum guy, and he has become a huge Cadet fan because of their percussion style and attitude. He pointed out some things and spots that are crucial to them winning the Sanford. One thing he made me aware of is that they have not hosed some very tough parts in the book like some others have. There is a chance that they will not medal, but of course it won't be because they are out worked by anybody.


Next up: After show
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We got together outside the gate to talk about things we saw, liked, and thought. One subject was the distant memory of the initial G7 TOC "proposal". The crowds at the events and the prices being paid for tickets, , food, parking etc seem to validate the whole concept in some ways. I wonder about the corps who are not "the draw" and how they felt about being on the outside looking in. Regardless, the competitive battles being so tight is really exciting. Another thing we agreed on was that we didn't like the announcer, it's not vanGUARD or BLOOOdevils


We were very happy when the scores were announced. That meant it has been a long time since BD has not won a show that we went to, including 3 out of 3 this year. I could be bribed to attend finals Mr. Gibbs! We congratulated some members as they came by. and got a nice pic with the DM.


We decided on the obligatory post victory stop at the Springfield diner just up the turnpike. It was late, but even so, the difference in the service attitude from what we experienced in the South was noticeable. The food was good though!


We passed the BD souvie truck in Allentown. Super excited to spend the day with them tomorrow in Hamburg!


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